A Legislative Reform Order which amends the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 to allow changes to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons's governance arrangements has received Ministerial assent.

There will now be significant changes to the RCVS Council, as follows: 

  • A gradual reduction in the number of elected members of RCVS Council from the current 24 to 13 by the year 2021.

  • A change of composition to include six lay members and two veterinary nurse members. Furthermore, the number of Council members appointed by each university whose veterinary degree is recognised by the RCVS will be reduced from two to one and Privy Council will no longer be required to appoint members. From 1 July 2020 university membership will undergo further changes as, from then on, veterinary schools will collectively appoint three members in total to serve on Council. 

  • Members of Council will no longer be able to serve more than three consecutive four-year terms of office and, after serving three consecutive terms, they will not be eligible to re-stand as a candidate for two years. 

  • Members of Council may be removed from office if they fail to satisfy any conditions about fitness to be a member, as determined by their peers on Council. If removed from office they will not be eligible to re-stand as a candidate for two years.

Introducing the LRO before the House of Lords last Tuesday, Lord Gardiner of Kimble said: "The proposed changes… reduce the size of Council and revise the balance of membership between vets and non-vets, including veterinary nurses and lay persons. They will bring the RCVS in-line with many other modern-day regulatory bodies and allow for greater efficiency, transparency and accountability to both members and the general public. For all the reasons I have outlined today, I commend the use of Legislative Reform Order to make changes that will benefit the veterinary profession."

The full text of the Legislative Reform Order can be found on www.legislation.gov.uk and the full transcript of the debate in the House of Lords can be found in Hansard Online (https://hansard.parliament.uk).

Professor Stephen May, RCVS President, said: "We have been looking at reform of Council as an issue of some urgency since 2013, in recognition of the fact that, with the formula-driven growth of Council, it was becoming unwieldy, which has an impact on the cost of each meeting and the frequency with which it could reasonably meet.

"This reform has been long in gestation and so we are glad that this has now been approved and that we can look forward to a more modern, agile and efficient governance structure, aimed as always at benefitting the professions, animal owners and animal health and welfare."

One immediate impact of the LRO relates to the results of this year’s RCVS Council election as the Ministerial sign-off now confirms that only the first three candidates (in order of number of votes) will take up their four-year terms at RCVS Day on Friday 13 July 2018. These are Susan Paterson, Mandisa Greene and Neil Smith, all of whom are current members who were re-elected.

The RCVS Veterinary Nurses Council agreed reforms to its own governance last year, including shortening the term of office from four years to three years; introducing a consecutive three-term limit for elected members; and, reducing the size and changing the composition of VN Council to six elected veterinary nurses, two appointed veterinary nurse members, two appointed veterinary surgeon members from RCVS Council, and four appointed lay members.